Fruit and thorns

Today we went raspberry picking. As anyone who’s ever picked raspberries knows, they are thorny bushes. These were no exception.

The berries were on a small slope beside a road. Apparently other people had also picked berries in this location because there was a path worn down. This area has not only raspberries, but also blueberries and low bush cranberries.

The raspberry bushes were loaded. However, many of the lower, easy to reach patches had already been picked.  While there were still some small berries low down, to get to the better berries we had to climb the slope and fight the thorns. Not only raspberry bush thorns but also wild roses. Plus there was vetch (a creeping vine) tangling the bushes and grabbing ankles.

Were there still usable berries low down in easy to pick spots? Yes. Were they the same size and quality of those higher up? No, the lower ones were much smaller and poor quality. While we could have been content to pick the lower slope, we wanted the better berries. We had to brave the thorns on the steep slope to get the better fruit near the top. We managed to get about a gallon of raspberries in an hour and a half.

Often our Christian walk is like picking berries. We can be content with the small fruit on the lower, easy path or we can strive through the thorns for the better fruit higher up. Is the walk always easy? No. However, you will be rewarded with much better fruit. So I challenge you to press through the thorns in your life.

Officially an instructor

I’m officially a water fitness instructor. My certificate came in the mail while I was on vacation. Plus, I got a job at my gym as a substitute!  They want me to attend several of the classes so I can get a feel for how the classes normally are led.

I’m also supposed to put together a 4 song demonstration “class” which I will then teach to the other instructors. I’m a bit nervous about that. They will be critiquing me. I’m sure it’s for my own good and to make sure I don’t make a fool of myself on deck, but still nerve wracking. My orientation is in 2 weeks and I told them I’d have it ready about then. I don’t have much dancy music. I think I will use some Enya and some Fleetwood Mac. It’s supposed to be the segment following a warm up so it’s not the peak of the workout yet. I like them because they have a strong beat to cue off. I was told that would be one big thing I would be judged on as well as transitions between movements.

After I do orientation and my demo, I get to team teach with the other instructors. They have all been very supportive and encouraging. I will actually be getting paid to exercise. How cool is that! Granted there’s a lot more to leading a fitness class than just dong the exercises, but still, I’m excited.

Thinking ahead

I am thinking ahead again. While I am ordering for this year, I am starting to think about next year. This helps me keep an eye out for interesting things of the topics I think we may want to study. One thing I’d prefer to do is have both kids studying similar things for social studies and science.

They may be on different levels, but if the topics are similar, it makes it easier for me. In fact, this is how the district is set up. Each level delves deeper into the science content areas. So while the content areas stay the same, the student is learning new things each level. This works great because instead of bouncing around and learning a little geology, biology, physics, and chemistry each grade, I can concentrate on one for a year and get several levels of that content area finished then switch to another. My children enjoy the more in depth study as well. They are understanding more specifics rather than just a general understanding. It’s a mastery approach rather than the spiral approach general used in elementary school.

The drawback is finding quality materials instead of general textbooks or small, disjointed unit studies. Luckily WinterPromise and Sonlight seem to share this approach to teaching science. While filling out forms and browsing websites for this year’s items, I discovered WinterPromise has redesigned their geology program. It now has several items I was interested in. The target grades are 3-6 so Karen will be a little young using it in 2nd grade. However, most of their science programs are on the light side so I think it will be fine for both of them.

Then I’d like to revisit biology for their 3rd and 6th grades respectively. The Sonlight Science 3 has some good books.

For 4th and 7th grades we’ll do chemistry.

Then Richard will be ready for Apologia science texts while Karen does the more advanced parts that he already did. I’ve heard mostly good about them. From the review on homeschoolreview.com the general science text has been successfully used starting as early as 6th grade so I may do it then with Richard considering how gifted he is in science. They are available from Sonlight and Christian Light Education. Sonlight is on the approved vendor list for our allotment so I’ll likely order from them if we end up using it.

I may put together an Alaska study using books such as Julie of the Wolves, White Fang, The Call of the Wild, To Build a Fire, and Robert Service poetry (such as the Cremation of Sam McGee. Add some history books such as the journals of Judge Wickersham, native stories such as The Roots of Ticasuk, early Fairbanks such as The Way it Was; along with Alaskan geography such as building the Alcan Highway in The Trail of ’42, stories of the great 1969 earthquake,;the Valdez oil spill, and biology (Wild Harmony, To the Arctic) for a cross-curricular theme for middle or high school. Or turn it into a wilderness adventure study by adding My Side of the Mountain and Where the Red Fern Grows (I still cry when I read that one).

God’s perfect timing

God is showing His timing is perfect to me and my family. I also think God was teaching us patience at the same time. There have been a couple notable instances of items arriving just in time recently I’d like to share.

My husband ordered some paperback books several weeks ago from different vendors. He was worrying that they would not arrive before we left on vacation. However, they were all in the mail the day before we left.

I had to go to the doctor after my car accident in early February. I have no medical insurance. Luckily the other driver who was at fault had good insurance which covered my bills. I submitted the bills and answered all their numerous forms  and questions but got no response from the insurance. I was still getting bills. The bills said the insurance had been notified but not yet paid them.

I am one to fret over unpaid bills, especially when I don’t know where the money will come from. Not hearing from the insurance should have been unsettling. I was also starting to worry over where the money for my college this fall will come from. Strangely, each time I pondered and started worrying over these bills something (I can only assume it was the Spirit) said “wait, relax”. So I waited and tried to trust.

Well, the day before we were to leave on vacation a notice came in the mail from the insurance company offering to settle for 5 times the amount of the medical bills! That would pay the medical bills and leave enough to take classes this fall without getting a loan. Yet there was also a new medical bill for $200. I called the insurance and told them about the new bill. They added it to the settlement amount with no questions asked. Plus, they said I didn’t have to wait for a check. I could pick it up at the local office in a few hours.

One more thing was a lock. My husband bought a new padlock for our boat. It’s the kind you can change the combination. Our son was playing with the lock after we set the new combination. When we went to lock it up the lock wouldn’t open. My husband was very upset. He spent about 5 minutes trying to open it. I tried. He tried again. Still it wouldn’t budge. My husband punished our son for playing with the lock. He told him the cost of the lock would come out of his allowance if it had to be replaced. A few minutes later it opened with the combination we had set. My husband asked what had changed since we both repeatedly tried it with no success. I replied that perhaps our son had prayed.

Yes, God’s timing is perfect. My husband’s books arrived just in time for him to read them on vacation. If I had rushed or pestered the insurance company I doubt if I would have gotten such a good settlement.  Indeed all things do work for the good of those who serve Him to exalt His glory, even a car accident or padlock.

Ordering 2010-2011 homeschool stuff

I am working on ordering homeschool curriculum for this school year. I’m almost finished. Right now I’m still picking out what literature (free reading) books I want them to read this year. Since we have 2 kids eligible for the full allotment, we can get a lot of things. I don’t see how we can spend it all! Even if you include the items from Christian Light that aren’t re-reimbursable, I still haven’t spent even one child’s full allotment. It’s mind boggling how much money is spent (wasted) per child average for public schools, especially considering the poor outcomes that are more and more common.

I have  another busy year planned. We’re going to be doing math, language arts, reading, art, science, and history. As usual, I’m ordering from several different companies. They’re both doing physics from Exploration Education. Bible, reading, and language arts are from Christian Light Education. Math is from Math-U-See. Richard needs both the instructor and teacher kits but since Karen can use his old instructor kits, I just need new workbooks for her which will save me about $40.

Karen’s literature will be First Favorites from Veritas Press after she finishes Learning to Read from CLE. We have it already from when Richard did first grade. He really enjoyed it. She will be learning about communities, ways of communicating, and map skills for social studies.

Richard will be doing a writing skills workbook from Institute for Excellence in Writing. It’s a basic writing skills program which introduces many forms of creative and structured writing including reports, summaries, outlines, and poetry. Now that he has good grammar skills, it’s time he learned to apply them to actual writing.

WinterPromise has something they call Adventures in Sea and Sky which is a combined history and science program themed around travel by ocean and air. I will be getting that and the young learner guide so Karen can do it too. We hope to go see the space shuttle launch this spring which will be a great lesson cap.  I am not ordering the readers for it but am ordering some books from Sonlight that fit the theme instead.

Art this year will be from Safeway, of all places. This spring I found 2 art activity books that teach about different artists then students make something in that style. I found one for collages and one for painting. I may need to go to the craft store and get more materials since both of them will be doing the projects but there’s one set of books.

My husband and I had a good discussion today at lunch about scheduling school and work. We decided to get up this year 630 or 7. Then school would be at least until 10, perhaps even noon a few days since we hired the new secretary. This would hopefully keep work from interfering with school. Also both my husband and I want to take classes so if the entire family did school during the mornings it should work well. He even said we could put on our answering machine that phones won’t be answered until 10am.

Last year we tried just answering the phone during the morning and even that was too much of a disturbance, causing school to be disrupted, delayed, or even abandoned for the day depending upon what the callers wanted. I tried to resume school in the afternoons on days that were delayed, but the quality and quantity of work was much lower. It just wasn’t a good idea. School is best for us in the morning.

I’m starting to get excited about this upcoming school year. My son is out of town visiting his aunts this week. While he is gone, my daughter and I are organizing and cleaning the house, getting ready for school. Hopefully we’ll start mid-August. I don’t expect all of the orders to be here by then, but we have enough stuff to keep us busy. Plus, it is easier to start slow rather than delving into everything at once.

In the name of fashion

Men and women have gone to great lengths sometimes to change their appearance for the whims of fashion. Most of us women have seen (or worn) high heel shoes. These make the legs look longer  by keeping you slightly off balance compared to a neutral stance without the heels. The dangers are pretty low but include ankle and other leg injuries.

Jewelry is another common fashion items. Necklaces and rings have very little risk. Basically they just are where you put them. Entanglement is a risk, but easily avoided by removing the jewelry before doing something which may get you caught. Earrings and other piercings have danger of infection, which can sometimes be severe, but rarely leading to permanent disfigurement.

Makeup can drastically change a person’s appearance. Popular makeup use styles and colors have changed through the years, but the makeup itself is basically the same. My mom called it a woman’s war paint. Minor skin irritation is the most common side effect.

However, there is a new fashion trend that is catching on, especially among young girls which has a risk that I think is unacceptable. It is non-medical colored contact lenses. There is a music video from Lady Gaga which she has computer enhanced large eyes. Colored contact lenses have been available for awhile. These new ones actually have the color slightly larger than a person’s real eye color area that makes it appear larger.

Young girls are buying several pairs and then changing their “eyes” like you would earrings or other accessories. They are illegal, but available over the internet. What’s the big deal? Few of these lenses have been approved by the FDA. This means that they are made in unknown conditions. Also because everyone has a different shaped eye and you can’t measure it yourself like you could an arm for a bracelet, you don’t know if the lens you buy actually fits. From what I understand, many internet companies will sell the lenses without a prescription. Incorrectly fitting contact lens can cause scratching. Continued irritation like that can cause infection. Infection could also be introduced by improper care and storage of the lenses.

No matter what the cause, eye infections aren’t a joking matter. They can quickly lead to blindness. Parents need to be aware of the dangers of non-medical contact lenses. Do you really want to risk your sight (or your daughter’s sight), just for the sake of a fashion whim?

Regular contact lenses are sold after an exam by an eye doctor who will measure the eye for a proper fit.

New CLE primers

Our Christian Light Education order has arrived. There was something for everyone. My books, Richard and Karen’s school books. Part of Karen’s school was the 4 primers from their new version of Learning to Read.  We started the old LTR last year and got about halfway through. (I had planned to take 2 years anyway since she was just 4). After the first few lessons though, we did not use the old primer. It was so frustrating for her. However, when we looked at the new ones at the display last month, they were just what she needed. I almost regret not ordering the last half of the new program, but decided to just get the primers.

She’s already read the first one through several times and enjoys it. Today she read in the second one and told me she really loves these books. Complete with hug and big smile! The smaller sized books and new word presentation order to coordinate better with the LTR program (even the older version) are perfect for giving her reading confidence instead of frustration. While they are made to go with the new new LTR program, I would not hesitate to recommend them to anyone no matter what program they are using. Like all CLE readers, the stories are wholesome.

The paperwork for ordering from the school district allotment came in today’s mail. The science program we want to use was not listed for purchase order but we can order it and get reimbursed. I still haven’t figured out history. With 2 kids, I’ll have $2800 to spend. Wow! Considering she can use hand-me-downs except for consumables, I doubt if we will spend it all.